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Globally acclaimed Tibetan filmmaker was a prolific writer too; to be honored at 25th Shanghai International Film Festival

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(TibetanReview.net, May12’23) – In more details that have emerged about the circumstances of the sudden passing away of Pema Tseden, China’s official global.chinadaily.com.cn said May 12 that the international acclaimed award-winning Tibetan filmmaker as well as prolific writer reportedly felt uncomfortable just the day before while shooting a new movie in Nakarze county of Lhokha city in Tibet (Autonomous Region).

Early Monday (May 8) morning, he was sent for treatment at a local hospital in the county and later transferred to Lhasa, but passed away due to heart disease, the report said, citing The Beijing News.

He was stated to have posted his last social media message on his WeChat account at 5:23 pm on Sunday. The message was stated to read, “Congratulations to the young filmmakers”, and includes three pictures that show young Tibetan director Gegyal Pema’s film Gift earning a nomination at the official selection of the Indian International Short Film Festival Awards.

During his final days, Pema Tseden was leading a crew on the shoot for his new movie, Have a Nice Trip, a romance about two travelers who fall in love during a trip to one of the base camps at Mount Qomolangma, known as Mount Everest in the West, Shanghai-based magazine Xinmin Weekly has said.

This was apart from the two other movies that were yet to be completed.

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Providing further details on his personal background, the report said, Pema Tseden, born 1969 into a herder’s family in Guide County of the Hainan prefecture, Qinghai province, initially worked as a primary school teacher and, later, as a government employee. After discovering his passion for art, in the early 1990s, Tseden started publishing literary works, such as Enticement: Stories of Tibet. At the age of 33, he sought to further his interest in cinema by quitting his job to study at the Beijing Film Academy.

Following his extremely successful foray in filmmaking, which won him many awards, including in China, South Korea, and Venice, renowned ethnic Tibetan writer Tashi Dawa was stated to have praised Pema Tseden as the “double peaks” of Tibetan literature and cinema.

Also receiving dozens of awards, Pema Tseden’s literary works have been translated into multiple languages, including English, French, Spanish and Japanese, thus providing foreign readers with a deeper understanding of Tibet, the report said.

In its statement released on May 9, the China Academy of Art has noted that Pema Tseden, who had worked in the film industry for around 20 years, was entering his most fertile period of creativity, being capable of producing a movie almost every year and writing a novel every few months.

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Meanwhile, the sudden and untimely passing of Pema Tseden, aged 53, has caused widespread mourning among fans of art house cinema and members of the domestic film industry, said the global.chinadaily.com.cn report.

“I have written and deleted so many words repeatedly, and I feel that none of them can express my current feelings. … We discussed life and death, reincarnation and impermanence, but I still couldn’t face your departure. In my lifetime, I will always cherish our memories together,” actor Huang Xuan has written on Sina Weibo.

Huang was starring in Pema Tseden’s unfinished film Stranger, which tells the story of a man riding a Harley Davidson motorcycle on a quest to find a woman in Tibet.

Zhou Jiali, a scriptwriter and an associate professor at the China Academy of Art has said: “The weighty aura that Pema Tseden had left a deep impression on everyone who met him. He was like someone who stood at the center of the storm, but could still calm the restless outer world. His patience and humility gave him depth of character.”

“These qualities are reflected in his body of work. He never rushed to embellish or show off. He was extremely restrained and straightforward,” she has added.

The report said the 25th Shanghai International Film Festival, which will begin on Jun 9, had released a memorial article expressing deep sadness, and also announced its plan to screen some of Pema Tseden’s most representative works in its “tribute to masters” section, as a way of honoring his contributions to the art of filmmaking.


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